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People urged to be careful with fire use this weekend

Forests Minister Doug Donaldson.
Forests Minister Doug Donaldson.

Although some parts of British Columbia have received significant rainfall in recent weeks, this year’s wildfire season is far from over.

With warm weather in the forecast, there is still the potential for forest fuels and grasslands to dry out in many areas of the province.

Everyone who plans to spend time outdoors over the Labour Day long weekend is encouraged to use caution with any activity that could potentially spark a wildfire. Human-caused fires are preventable and can unnecessarily divert firefighting resources from new, naturally occurring wildfires and from wildfires that are already burning.

“I hope that all British Columbians can enjoy the Labour Day long weekend with friends and family,” said Doug Donaldson, Minister of Forests, Lands, Natural Resource Operations and Rural Development. “While this fire season hasn’t been as active as the past two summers, we still need everyone to remain vigilant and act responsibly.”

From April 1 through Aug. 28, 2019, the BC Wildfire Service responded to 696 wildfires throughout the province, with 57% of those fires caused by people. Over 21,141 hectares have been burned in B.C. since April 1, 2019.

People are urged to take the following precautions to help prevent wildfires:

Campfires:

* Campfires are currently allowed in all areas of the province that fall under the BC Wildfire Service’s jurisdiction. However, people should check with local governments and other authorities (e.g., BC Parks) to see if they have any burning restrictions or bylaws in effect.

* Campfires must not be larger than 0.5 metres high or 0.5 metres wide.

* Never light a campfire or keep it burning in windy conditions. Weather can change quickly, and wind may carry embers to other combustible material.

* Maintain a fireguard around the campfire. This is a fuel-free area where all flammable materials (grass, leaves, kindling, etc.) have been removed right down to the soil.

* Never leave a campfire unattended.

* Have a shovel or at least eight litres of water available to properly extinguish your campfire.

* Make sure that the ashes are cool to the touch before retiring for the night or leaving the area for any length of time.

Additional precautions:

* Anyone riding an all-terrain vehicle or dirt bike on Crown land must have a spark arrestor installed on the vehicle. Check the condition of the muffler, regularly clear buildups of grass or other vegetation from hot spots, stay on dirt paths and avoid tall grass and weeds to help reduce wildfire risks.

* Smokers must dispose of cigarette butts and other smoking materials responsibly, ensuring that those materials are completely extinguished and disposed of properly.

The government’s conservation officers conduct regular patrols throughout British Columbia. Natural resource officers from the Compliance and Enforcement Branch work closely with BC Wildfire Service staff to investigate the cause of wildfires and any improper fire use when an open burning prohibition is in effect.

Anyone found in contravention of an open-burning prohibition may be issued a violation ticket for $1,150, may be required to pay an administrative penalty of up to $10,000, or, if convicted in court, may be fined up to $100,000 and/or sentenced to one year in jail. If the contravention causes or contributes to a wildfire, the person responsible may be ordered to pay all firefighting and associated costs.

To report a wildfire, unattended campfire or open-burning violation, call 1 800 663-5555 toll-free or *5555 on a cellphone.

For up-to-date information on current wildfire activity, burning restrictions, road closures and air quality advisories, call 1 888 3-FOREST or visit: www.bcwildfire.ca

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